The city of Gloversville and the Gloversville Firefighters Association are preparing for negotiations following the expiration on Dec. 31 of the firefighters’ contract.
High on the city’s list of priorities is changing contract language that mandates minimum staffing in the fire department for each shift. The contract states that each of three shifts is to have a minimum of seven firefighters and the fourth shift must have eight. The department has 29 people.
City Finance Commissioner Bruce VanGenderen said the city would like to keep seven firefighters per shift but with a minimum staffing set at five firefighters. “We would not reduce the number of employees,” he said.
Mayor Dayton King said this arrangement would save the city approximately $100,000 annually in overtime costs.
Capt. Brandt Minkler, president of the fire union, was not available for comment for this story.
The city and the union met Thursday to discuss ground rules for the upcoming negotiations, VanGenderen said.
King said the city is working on an “incentive proposal” that would help make the deal possible. He would not reveal details. “I want public safety,” he said. “I want them to agree with me to protect those in the union, but the next hires would not have these same rights.”
He said the transition to a lower minimum staffing level could take years to accomplish.
VanGenderen said the city has to look at contract negotiations as a main method of reducing governmental costs. “We have to work with the unions to achieve savings, as growth of our tax base appears limited,” he said.
The city is expecting to see some growth in sales tax revenue when the new Walmart Supercenter opens later this year, but that will not be enough to offset continued increases in personnel costs, VanGenderen said: “I don’t see any new revenue streams coming into the city. Therefore, we have to have reasonable negotiations with the unions to trim costs as best we can.”
A year ago, the union offered to cut four positions through attrition and lowering minimum staffing from seven firefighters to six per shift. In return, it asked the city to extend its contract for two years and include 3 percent raises starting in January 2013.
The city did not accept the proposal.